Yes, maybe that headline’s a bit harsh, but the cold reality is that the NFL is a business first and foremost. With free agency around the corner, everyone has begun debating and speculating as to which outside players could land with the Baltimore Ravens, but the reality is that free agency doesn’t just mean adding players to rosters, it means cutting them from teams as well.
While the Ravens have several free-agents-to-be that may simply have expiring contracts and might not be retained due to the salary cap or for monetary reasons, there is still one big important part of free agency that has yet to hit Baltimore: cuts.
Last year, in almost one fell swoop, long time Ravens, Derrick Mason and Todd Heap, found themselves team-less almost a few hours after the league had opened its doors after the NFL’s lockout. Though the cuts that the Ravens make this off-season may not be as deliberate or shocking as last year’s, they’re inevitably coming soon. With several candidates for being restructured or cut altogether, the Ravens will look to create as much cap space as possible while cutting loose any players that they feel aren’t contributing enough to justify their current salaries.
So, who stays and who gets shown the door?
(After the "Jump", see which Ravens players could be given their walking papers.)With an extremely deep 2012 free agency class, the Ravens will surely look to create as much cap space as possible to be able to sign some outside free agents at positions of need, such as: interior offensive line, wide receiver, and possibly even running back with Ricky Williams’ recent retirement. Here is a list of players that the Ravens could decide to re-structure, or cut altogether in the attempt to create additional cap space:
Cornerback, Domonique Foxworth: Once thought to be the solution to the Ravens’ shaky secondary, Foxworth has struggled mightily to stay healthy over the past two seasons. Unfortunately for Foxworth, he hasn’t seemed to fully recover from his ACL injury which he sustained in 2010. During his absence, Foxworth has watched from the bench while Lardarius Webb, Jimmy Smith, and Cary Williams have stepped up to lead the Ravens’ secondary to become one of the NFL’s best units. Foxworth signed a 4-year, $27.2 million contract in 2009, and is due $5.6 million for the up-coming season. After only playing in two games over the past two seasons and being buried on the depth chart behind several promising defensive backs, the Ravens could decide to part ways with the expensive, and often injured Foxworth.
Cornerback, Chris Carr: Another cornerback that was thought to boost the Ravens’ secondary unit, Carr struggled to see the field in 2011 due to some minor injuries and also because he was buried on the depth chart behind Webb, Smith, and Williams. In fact, Carr was a frequent recipient of becoming a "healthy scratch" on game days because other defensive backs were simply out-playing him. Carr has been a solid defender for the Ravens, but it seems that if he wants to stay in Baltimore, he is going to have to prove his worth on the practice field and earn his starting job back. This past off-season, Carr signed a 4-year contract worth $14 million and is due $2.5 million for the up-coming season. At just 28, Carr could be a prime candidate to have his contract re-structured and given another chance to come back and prove himself, but at a lesser cost.
Wide Receiver, Lee Evans: Depending on who you ask, Evans is either the first or second biggest reason for the Ravens’ loss in the AFC championship game. Another player that struggled to see the field this season due to injuries, Evans was initially believed to become a solid deep threat for the Ravens and quarterback, Joe Flacco. While he did show flashes of elite speed and home-run-threat ability, his lack of production and overall disappointing season could force the Ravens’ hand to cut ties. Evans carries a cap number of $3.3 million heading into next season with a $1.0 million roster bonus due to him on March 18th. With only 4 catches for 74 yards this season, the Ravens aren’t likely to pay Evans his full salary for next year, and instead will most likely ask the wide-out to take a major pay decrease if he wishes to remain in Baltimore.
Kicker, Billy Cundiff: Coming off of a Pro-Bowl season in 2010, I don’t think many expected that Cundiff would take the nose dive that he did this season. Connecting on just 28 out of 37 field goals (75.7%) this season, many are questioning Cundiff’s mental confidence heading into next season. The journeyman kicker, who seemed to have found a home with the Ravens, will now be under a very large microscope this off-season with coaches and fans alike keeping a close eye on him. While it’s not likely that Cundiff gets cut, it’s almost a foregone conclusion that the kicker will face some form of competition during training camp and be forced to earn or keep his job. Last year, Cundiff signed a whopping five year contract worth $14.7 million and is due $2.2 million in 2012. Since the Ravens aren’t likely to cut ties with their only kicker, it could be prudent for the team to at least re-structure Cundiff’s contract coming off an extremely inconsistent year. While he did struggle with a calf injury this season, the Ravens surely aren’t looking for a repeat of Cundiff’s missed field goal in the AFC championship game in the up-coming season.
So, there we have it. Only time will tell who the Ravens decide to part ways with, and unfortunately, time may be running out for some of these current Ravens. Free agency is upon us, and in a matter of weeks there will be some players that move on from this franchise.